No more blame game

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The biggest reform in UK divorce law for 50 years has removed the need for one spouse to blame the other. Rebecca Silcock, head of the Mogers Drewett Family Law department, lifts the lid on the benefits of the new No-Fault Divorce law

There are certain words in the English language that over time and through common usage become inextricably coupled together; two such words are ‘acrimonious’ and ‘divorce’. With the roots of their close entanglement established in UK divorce courts across the country over recent years, these two words are so entwined it has often felt as though you couldn’t use one without the other. However, on 6 April 2022, the first major change to the divorce law in 50 years took significant steps towards decoupling these two words altogether.

This is a consequence of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which introduced the concept of No-Fault Divorce, a long-awaited reform that has dispensed with the outdated fault-based process. Break-ups can be painful, even ugly, enough without a climate of accusation and guilt, and the new system now allows couples to legally separate without the damaging process of pointing the finger.

Under the new law, a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down is all that is required without the previous need to assign blame. By making the ‘blame game’ a thing of the past, this reform is set to alter the landscape of legal separation from battleground to level playing field. No-Fault Divorce aims to not only reduce conflict between parting spouses, but also sets about dispensing with the damaging victim mentality it at times created.

Less squabbling

Ultimately, the actual reasons for the breakdown of the marriage, as complex as they might be, are not as important as resolving the important issues at hand, such as children, property and finances. So, in many ways, one of the greatest benefits of No-Fault Divorce is that it enables former couples to concentrate their energies on finding the best solutions for the future, rather than squabbling about the past.

It will even be possible for separating partners to make a joint application, which further removes any bitterness or ill-feeling from the equation, and also dispenses with the race to issue divorce proceedings first. A couple still has to have been married for the minimum of a year before they can apply for a divorce.

Another important change is that a divorce cannot be defended. While defended divorces were rare it was always possible, something that could increase both costs and acrimony. Under the new law a defence is not possible.

New rules

It is the intention that the process of obtaining a divorce will become more straightforward under the new law, as the recently introduced rules will now allow the application for divorce to be formally ‘served’ on the other party by email (though a paper notice must also be sent by post).

The new timescales related to the No-Fault Divorce are also relatively straightforward, and it is estimated that proceedings should take a minimum of 26 weeks to finalise. The old terminology of ‘Decree Nisi’ and ‘Decree Absolute’ will be replaced with the simplified new terms ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘Final Order’. So, after an application is made a period of 20 weeks will elapse before a Conditional Order is granted and then a requirement to wait a further six weeks before applying for the Final Order.

It is during the initial period before a Conditional Order is granted that it is advised that couples look to settle any outstanding issues concerning children, finances and property. Timings can also be important, especially if there are tax considerations. To this end, the Mogers Drewett Family team can be on hand to advise parties on the most appropriate ways to resolve matters. While the benefits of No-Fault Divorce reform are there for all to see, it is still advisable to get legal advice first.

If you are considering divorce and would like to speak to one of our family team, please can in touch today the team are here to help.

Mogers Drewett

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